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Continuous functions and convergent sequences

1. Continuous functions
Definition 1.1. Let (X, TX ) and (Y, TY ) be two topological spaces and let f :
X Y be a function.
(a) We say that f is continuous at x X if for every neighborhood V of f (x) there
exists a neighborhood U of x such that f (U ) V .
(b) We say that f is continuous if f 1 (V ) TX for every V TY .
We shall use the term map as synonymous with continuous function.
This definition of continuity, both locally at a point x as well as globally on the
entire space X, is motivated by our work on continuity of functions on Euclidean spaces
from chapter ??. Specifically, the reader will recognize that this definition mirrors the
results of theorem ?? which considered the case of X = Rn and Y = Rm .
In the Euclidean case, a function f : Rn Rm is defined to be continuous globally
if it is continuous at every point x Rn . Definition 1.1 is set up slightly differently
in that global continuity (part (b) of definition 1.1) is not defined as local continuity
(part (a) of definition 1.1) at every point x X. Nevertheless, the relation of global
to local continuity of functions between topological spaces remains the same as in the
Euclidean space, as explained by the next theorem.
Theorem 1.2. A function f : X Y between two topological spaces is continuous
if and only if it is continuous at every point x X.
Proof. = Suppose that f : X Y is continuous globally and let x be a
point in X. Pick an arbitrary neighborhood V of f (x) in Y , then U = f 1 (V ) is a
neighborhood of x in X with f (U ) V .
= Suppose that f : X Y is continuous at every point x X, let V be an
open subset of Y and set U = f 1 (V ). Wed like to show that U is open. For that
purpose, let x U be an arbitrary point (if U is the empty set then it is automatically
open) and note that V is a neighborhood of f (x). By continuity of f at x, there must
exist a neighborhood Ux of x with f (Ux ) V . This latter relation shows that Ux U
and consequently we obtain U = xU Ux . Since U is a union of open sets, it must be
an open set.

Before exploring the concept of continuity into greater depth, we consider some


Example 1.3. Let (X, TX ) = (R, Tcc ), let (Y, TY ) = (R, Tf c ) with p = 0 and let
f : X Y be the function f (x) = x2 . Let U = R {x1 , ..., xk } Tf c be any open set
so that f 1 (U ) = R {x1 , x1 , ..., xk , xk } Tcc . Thus f is continuous.
Example 1.4. Let (X, TX ) = (R, Tf c ), let (Y, TY ) = (R, Tp ) with p = 0 and let
f : X Y be again the function f (x) = x2 . Then {0, 1} Tp but f 1 ({0, 1}) =
{1, 0, 1}
/ Tf c so that f is not continuous.
Example 1.5. Let X be a non-empty set and let P1 and P2 be two partitions on
X and let T1 and T2 be the two associated partition topologies on X. Let f : X X
be the identity function f (x) = x whose domain is equipped with T1 and codomain
with T2 . Then f is continuous if and only if every element in P2 is a union of elements
from P1 .
Example 1.6. The constant function f : X Y , given by f (x) = p Y for all
x X, is always continuous since f 1 (U ) is either the empty set if p
/ U or all of X
if p U .
Example 1.7. Let X be equipped with the discrete topology, then any function
f : X Y is continuous. Conversely, if X is given the indiscrete topology, then a
function f : X Y to a Hausdorff space Y is continuous if and only if it is constant.
For if f were not constant then we could find two points a, b X with f (a) 6= (b).
The Hausdorff property would guarantee the existence of two open and disjoint sets
U, V Y with f (a) U and f (b) V . But then f 1 (U ) wouldnt be the empty set
(since itd contain a) nor all of X (since it couldnt contain b).
Example 1.8. Let (X, dX ) and (Y, dY ) be two metric spaces and let TX and TY be
the associated metric topologies. Then a function f : X Y is continuous at x X
if and only if for every > 0 there exists a > 0 such that
x0 X and dX (x, x0 ) <

dY (f (x0 ), f (x)) <

Thus continuous functions between metric spaces satisfy the familiar rule for continuity
at a point from analysis. We leave the verification of this as an exercise (exercise ??),
it follows along the lines of the proof of theorem ??.
The next theorem provides a number of alternative definitions of continuity of
functions. Part (a) is a generalization of theorem ?? from the Euclidean case to general
topological spaces.
Theorem 1.9. Let f : (X, TX ) (Y, TY ) be a function between two topological
spaces. Then f is continuous if and only if any of the mutually equivalent conditions
below is met:
(a) f 1 (B) is a closed subset of X for any closed subset B of Y .

(b) For all subsets B Y , one gets f 1 (B) f 1 (B).

f (A).
(c) For all subsets A X one gets f (A)
(d) For all subsets B Y one gets f (Int(B)) Int(f 1 (B)).


(e) Given a basis B = {Vi Y | i I} for TY , f 1 (Vi ) is open for every i I.

Proof. We will show that properties (a) and (e) are each equivalent to f being
continuous. We will then prove the implications (a)=(b)=(c)=(a). Showing that
(d) is equivalent to the continuity of f is left as an exercise (exercise 3.1).
(a) Suppose that f is continuous and let B Y be a closed set. Then f 1 (B) =
X f 1 (Y B) is also closed since Y B is open and continuity of f forces f 1 (Y B)
to be open also.
Conversely, suppose that f has property (a) and let V Y be any open set. Then
f (V ) = X f 1 (Y V ) is open since Y V and f 1 (Y V ) are both closed, the
latter by property (a).
we obtain f 1 (B) f 1 (B).
(a)=(b) Let B be any subset of Y . Since B B,
property (a) of f , the set f (B) is closed but since the set f 1 (B) is the smallest closed
is immediate.
set containing f 1 (B) (see lemma ??), the inclusion f 1 (B) f 1 (B)
(b)=(c) Take A X to be any subset of X and apply property (b) of f to
B = f (A) to obtain f 1 (f (A)) f 1 (f (A)). Since A f 1 (f (A)) we also get
A f 1 (f (A)). Applying f to the inclusion A f 1 (f (A)) yields the desired result.

(c)=(a) Let B be a closed subset of Y and set A = f 1 (B). Pick a point x A.

= B showing
Then, according to property (b) of f , we must have f (x) f (A) = B

that x A. This implies that A = A and thus that A is closed.

(d) The necessity of property (d) for a continuous function is obvious. Suppose
then that f possesses property (d) and let V Y be an open set. Let J I be such
that V = jJ Vj . Then f 1 (V ) = f 1 (jJ Vj ) = jJ f 1 (Vj ) showing that f 1 (V )
is a union of open sets and therefore open.

The reader may have noticed that of the various characterizations of continuity in
theorem 1.9, there are two conditions (conditions (b) and (c)) involving the closure
of sets but only one condition (condition (d)) involving the interior. Condition (b)
involves taking preimages under f and condition (c) requires one to take images under
f . Given that condition (d) also involves preimages, one may suspect that perhaps
there is also a characterization of continuity of f in terms of taking images of f and
interiors of sets. That this is not so is shown by the next two examples.
Example 1.10. Consider the function f : R2 R given by f (x, y) = x and with
each of R2 and R equipped with the Euclidean topology. Then f is clearly continuous,
but, taking A = {(x, 0) R2 | x R}, we find that
Int(f (A) = Int(R) = R


f (Int(A)) = f () =

Thus the inclusion Int(f (A) f (Int(A)) fails in general for continuous functions.
Example 1.11. Consider the function f : R R given by f (x) = 0 and assume
again that both copies of R come with the Euclidean topology. Pick A = R, then
f (Int(A)) = f (R) = {0}


Int(f (A)) = Int({0}) =


Thus the inclusion f (Int(A)) Int(f (A)) also fails in general for continuous functions
(see however part (a) of proposition 1.17 below).
We next single out some simple functions that are always continuous. The reader
will no doubt recognize familiar properties of continuous functions from the Euclidean
Proposition 1.12. Let f : X Y and g : Y Z be continuous functions between
topological spaces and let A X be any subspace of X. Then
(a) The inclusion function : A X is continuous. In particular, the identity
function id: X X is always continuous.
(b) The composition function g f : X Z is continuous.
(c) The restriction function f |A : A Y is continuous.
(d) Let Ui X, i I, be a collection of open subsets of X such that X = iI Ui
and let h : X Y be a function with h|Ui : Ui Y continuous for each i I.
Then h is continuous.
Proof. (a) For an open subset U X, the preimage 1 (U ) equals U A and is
therefore open on A with respect to its relative topology.
(b) Let W be an open subset of Z. Then V = g 1 (W ) is an open subset of Y and
thus U = f 1 (V ) must be open in X. Since U = f 1 (g 1 (W ) = (g f )1 (W ), were
(c) This follows from parts (a) and (b) since f |A = f where : A X is the
inclusion map.
(d) Set hi = h|Ui and let V Y be an open set. Then h1 (V ) = iI h1
i (V ) and,
since each h1
be open
subsets Wi X with hi (V ) = Ui Wi . As both Ui and Wi are open in X then so is
Ui Wi showing that h1 (V ) is a union of open sets and therefore open.

Definition 1.13. A function f : X Y between topological spaces is called
a homeomorphism if f is a continuous bijection with a continuous inverse function
f 1 : Y X. We say that two topological spaces X and Y are homeomorphic, and
write X
= Y , if there exists at least one homeomorphism f : X Y .
A function f : X Y is called a local homeomorphism if every point x X has a
neighborhood U such that f |U : U f (U ) is a homeomorphism, where U and f (U )
come equipped with their relative topologies inherited from X and Y respectively. Two
spaces are called locally homeomorphic if there exists at least one local homeomorphism
between them.
Talk about how homeomorphic spaces are really one and the same from an abstract
point of view.
Remark 1.14. The relation of being homeomorphic tobetween topological spaces
is an equivalence relation. By this we mean that it satisfies the following three properties:
1. Reflexivity: X
= X.


2. Symmetry: If X
= Y then also Y
= X.

3. Transitivity: If X = Y and Y = Z then X

= Z.
Part 1 is facilitated by the identity map id: X X (see proposition 1.12, part 3). For
part two, if f : X Y is a homeomorphism, then f 1 : Y X is also a homeomorphism. Finally, for part 3, if f : X Y and g : Y Z are homeomorphisms, then
g f : X Z is also a homeomorphism (see proposition 1.12 part 2).
In a similar vein one can also prove that the relation of being locally homeomorphicis an equivalence relations among topological spaces (see exercise ??).
Example 1.15.
Definition 1.16. Let f : X Y be a map between topological spaces. We say
that f is open if f (U ) is an open subset of Y whenever U is an open subset of X.
Similarly, we say that f is closed if f (A) is closed in Y for every choice of a closed
subset A X.
Note that, by definition, every homeomorphism is an open map. Indeed the condition for a bijection f to be open is the same as the condition as for f 1 to be continuous.
Similarly, using theorem 1.9, one finds that a homeomorphism is also a closed map.
Perhaps more surprisingly, local homeomorphisms are also open maps:
Proposition 1.17. Let f : X Y be a map between topological spaces.
(a) f is an open map if and only if f (Int(A)) Int(f (A)).
for every subset A X.
b) f is a closed map if and only if f (A) = f (A)
(c) If f is a local homeomorphism then f is an open map.
Proof. (a) Suppose first that f is open and let A be any subset of X. Since
Int(A) A we find that f (Int(A)) f (A). Since f is open, the set f (Int(A)) is
an open subset of f (A). But Int(f (A)) is the largest open subset of f (A) forcing the
inclusion f (Int(A)) Int(f (A)).
Conversely, suppose that f (Int(A)) Int(f (A)) holds for all A X. Pick an open
subset U X, then f (Int(U )) = f (U ) Int(f (U )). On the other hand, the inclusion
Int(f (U )) f (U ) is trivially true showing that f (U ) = Int(f (U )), thus f (U ) is open.
(b) Assume that f is closed and that A X is any set. Then A A implies
Since f (A)
is closed and contains f (A), the inclusion f (A) f (A)

that f (A) f (A).

follows since the closure of f (A) is the smallest closed set containing f (A). The converse
f (A) follows from theorem 1.9, part (c).
inclusion f (A)
for all subsets A of X, wed like to
On the other hand, suppose that f (A) = f (A)
= f (B),
show that f is closed. Thus, let B X be any closed set, then f (B) = f (B)
the latter set is of course closed.
(c) Assume that f is a local homeomorphism. To show that f is an open map, let
U X and set V = f (U ). Wed like to show that V is an open subset of Y . Towards
this goal, pick a point x U . Then there exists a neighborhood Ux of x such that
f |Ux : Ux Vx , with Vx = f (Ux ), is a homeomorphism. Without loss of generality we
can assume that Ux U for if not, we could simply replace Ux by Ux U . But then


Vx V and therefore V = xU Vx . Being a union of open sets, V is forced to be open


The next example shows that a local homeomorphism does not have to be a closed
Example 1.18. Let X = h0, 1i R and Y = {(x, y) R2 | x2 + y 2 = 1} R2 , each
equipped with the relative Euclidean topology. Consider the map f : X Y defined
by f (t) = (cos(2t), sin(2t)). This is a local homeomorphism but f (X) = Y {(1, 0)}
and X is closed while Y {(1, 0)} is not.
We will encounter open and closed maps again in subsequent chapters. Open maps
will play an important role in the study of quotient spaces (chapter ??). Chapter ??
will give a nice criterion for a map to be closed in terms of compactness of the domain
of the map (theorem ??).
2. Convergent sequences
In this section we examine convergent sequences in topological spaces, first in the
their own right and then with regards to their relation to continuous function. Familiar
properties of sequences from Euclidean spaces no longer hold in this more general
setting, perhaps most striking being the non-uniqueness phenomena for the limit of a
convergent sequence. A characterization of continuity in terms of sequences is given in
theorem 2.12.
Definition 2.1. Let (X, T ) be a topological space and xk X a sequence. We say
that the sequence xk converges to x X, and write limk xk = x or just lim xk = x,
if for every neighborhood U of x there exists a k0 N such that for all k k0 we
obtain xk U .
Note that if one takes (X, TX ) = (Rn , TEu ) then this definition agrees with the
familiar definition of continuity in Euclidean spaces, compare to theorem ??.
Example 2.2. Let X = R be equipped with the partition topology TP associated
to the partition
P = {[4a 2, 4a + 2i | a Z}
Then the sequence xn = (1)n converges to any point x [2, 2i since this is the
smallest non-empty open set containing both 1 and 1.
Example 2.3. If X is equipped with the indiscrete topology, then any sequence in
X is convergent and its limit is any point in X. Conversely, if X is given the discrete
topology, then a sequence xk is convergent to x X if and only if xk = x for all
sufficiently large k.
Example 2.4. Let X = R be given the finite complement topology Tf c and consider
the sequence xk = k. Then limxk = x for any x R since every neighborhood of x
contains all but finitely many elements of {x1 , x2 , x3 , ...}. If we give R the countable


complement topology Tcc instead, then lim xk = x if and only if xk = x for all k
sufficiently large (exercise ??).
Example 2.5. 5. On X = R consider the particular point topology Tp with p = 0.
Then the only sequences converging to p = 0 are the sequences which are eventually
constant (and equal to zero) since {0} is a neighborhood of 0. The sequences converging
to 6= 1 R are those that lie in the set {0, x} for all sufficiently large indices. to x0 = 1!
As the examples above show, in general topological spaces limits of sequences may
not be unique. They are unique tough if X happens to have the Hausdorff property.
Definition 2.6. A topological space X is called Hausdorff if every two points
have disjoint neighborhoods. Said differently, we require that for each pair of points
a, b X, a 6= b, there exist open sets Ua , Ub X with a Ua , b Ub and Ua Ub = .
Theorem 2.7. Let X be a topological space.
(a) If X Hausdorff space and xk X is a convergent sequence, then the limit lim xk
is unique.
(b) If X is fist countable and has the property that every convergent sequence xk X
has a unique limit, then X is Hausdorff.
Proof. (a) Suppose that there are two (or more) limits for xk , say a and b. Since
X is Hausdorff, we can find disjoint neighborhoods Ua and Ub of a and b respectively.
Let ka N be such that xk Ua for all k ka and kb N have the property that
xk Ub for all k kb . Then for all k max{ka , kb } we have that xk Ua Ub , a
contradiction since Ua Ub = .
(b) Given two arbitrary points a, b X with a 6= b, we need to find two disjoint
open sets of which one contains a and the other contains b. Let Ba = {Uia X | i N}
and Bb = {Uib X | i N} be countable neighborhood bases at a and b respectively.
We define new open sets Via and Vib as
Vka = U1a U2a ... Uka


Vkb = U1b U2b ... Ukb

These sets are open since they are finite intersections of open sets. Furthermore, notice
that Vja Uia and Vjb Uib for every j i. Clearly, each Via is a neighborhood of a
and each Vib is a neighborhood of b.
If Vka Vkb = for some k, we are done. So suppose instead that Vka Vkb 6= for all
k N. Let xk Vka Vkb be an arbitrary point. This yields a sequence in X which we
claim converges to a. To see this, let U be any neighborhood of a and find an Ukaa Ba ,
ka N, such that Ukaa U . Then Vka U for every k ka , in particular xk U for
every k ka , showing that lim xk = a. Repeating this same argument for b shows also
that lim xk = b. This is a contradiction since by assumption all convergent sequences
in X have a unique limit. We are thus forced to conclude that there is some k N for
which Vka Vkb = , giving us disjoint neighborhoods of a and b, as needed.

The first countability condition from part (b) of theorem 2.7 is necessary and cannot
be weakened as the next example shows.


Example 2.8. Consider X = R equipped with the countable complement topology.

We claim that every convergent sequence xk X has a unique limit. Suppose not,
that is suppose that lim xk = a and lim xk = b with a 6= b. Let Ua be the open set
Ua = R {xi | xi 6= a}
Clearly a Ua and so there must be some na N such that xn Ua for all n na .
But then xn = a for all n na since xn Ua {xi | i N} = {a}. A similar argument
shows that for some nb N all xn = b for n nb . But then xn = a and xn = b
for n max{na , nb } which is impossible since a 6= b. On the other hand, X is not
Hausdorff since every two non-empty open sets have nontrivial intersection.
Recall that we saw that a subset A Rn (with the Euclidean topology) is closed if
and only if it contains the limits of all its convergent sequences (this was our original
definition of a closed subset of Rn , see definition ??). This characterization of closed
sets is only partly true in general topological spaces.
Theorem 2.9. Let X be a topological space and A a subset of X.
(a) If A is a closed then it contains the limits of all its convergent sequences.
(b) If X is first countable and A contains the limits of all of its convergent sequences, then A is closed.
Proof. (a) Let xk A be a sequence with limit x. If x
/ A then x X A which
is an open set. By convergence of xk there must be some k0 N such that xk X A
for all k k0 . This is impossible since xk A and A (X A) = .
Suppose this were not
(b) We will show that A is closed by exhibiting that A = A.

true. Then A A would be nonempty. Let x A A and let Bx = {Ui X | i =

1, 2, 3, ...} be a countable basis at x and define Vi as
Vj = U1 U2 ... Uj
Note that the sets Vi are open, that the inclusion Vj Ui holds for all j i and that
each Vj contains x. We claim next that each set Vi A must be non-empty. For if not
then A Vj would be a closed set smaller than A and containing A, a contradiction.
Thus we can pick an element xk Vk A. But now xk must converge to x since if V
is any neighborhood of x then there must be an index k0 such that x Uk0 V and
thus xk V for all k k0 . Since xk A and lim xk = x we conclude that x A.
Therefor A = A.

That the first countability condition from part (b) of the preceding theorem cannot
be dropped, is illustrated by the next example.
Example 2.10. Let X = R be equipped with the countable complement topology
and let A X be the set A = X {0}. Notice that A is not closed (since X A = {0}
is not open). But A contains the limits of all of its convergent subsequences. To see
this we only need to show that no sequence xk A can converge to 0. This is easy to
see since the set U = X {x1 , x2 , ...} is an open set which contains zero but no element
of the sequence xn . Thus A contains the limits of all of its convergent sequences. Note


that this, in conjunction with theorem 2.9, show that (R, Tcc ) cannot be first countable
and hence neither second countable.
Parts (b) from both theorem 2.7 and theorem 2.9 show that if we assume the
topological space X in question to be first countable, then sequences in X behave in
close analogy with their Euclidean counterparts. The next theorem shows that this
kinship extends even further.
Theorem 2.11. Let X be a topological space and let x X be a given point.
Suppose the {x} is not an open set and that x has a countable neighborhood basis.
Then there exists a sequence xk X {x} converging to x.
Proof. Suppose that Bx = {U1 , U2 , U3 , ...} is a countable neighborhood basis at
x X. As in the proofs of theorems 2.7 and 2.9, we define new set Vj as
Vk = U1 U2 ... Uk
Since {x} is not an open set by assumption, we cannot have Vk = {x} for any value of
k N. Thus, we can always pick an element xk Vk {x} and thus form a sequence.
It is easy to prove that lim xk = x (this was already shown in the both the proof of
theorem 2.7 and in the proof of theorem 2.9).

We conclude this section by examining the relation between continuous functions
and convergent sequences. As the reader may guess by now, with the assumption
of first countability, the relation between the two is just as in Euclidean space (see
theorem ??).
Theorem 2.12. Let f : X Y be a function between two topological spaces.
(a) If f is continuous at x X and if xk X is a convergent sequence with
lim xk = x, then f (xk ) Y is also a convergent sequence with lim f (xk ) = f (x).
(b) If X is first countable and f has the property that limf (xk ) = f (x) for all
sequences xk X converging to x, then f is continuous at x.
Proof. (a) We will first show that property (a) of the theorem is equivalence to
continuity of f . Let V Y be a neighborhood of f (x). Since f is continuous, the
set U = f 1 (V ) X is a neighborhood of x. Since lim xk = x there is some k0 N
such that xk U for all k k0 . But then f (xk ) V for all k k0 also, showing that
lim f (xk ) = f (x).
(b) Let V be a neighborhood of f (x) and set U = f 1 (V ). We seek to show that
U contains a neighborhood of x. Suppose that this were not so. In that case, let
Bx = {V1 , V2 , V3 , ...} be a neighborhood basis around x and pick xk (X U ) Vk
arbitrarily. Then xk converges to x and thus by assumption f (xk ) must converge to
f (x). This however is impossible since V is open and f (x) V while f (xk )
/ V.
Consequently, U must contain a neighborhood of x and hence f is continuous at x. 



3. Exercises
3.1. Show that a function f : X Y is continuous if and only if f 1 (Int(B))
Int(f 1 (B)) for every subset B Y .
3.2. For R let f : R R be the function f (x) = x + . If both the domain
and codomain of f are equipped with the finite complement topology, for which R
is f continuous?